It is with great sadness that we must inform you of the passing of our Partner Andrea Gabor, on December 24, 2015 at Bridgepoint Health Centre. Andrea was an astute, warm and dedicated professional Urban Planner. She loved cities and urban life, and will be remembered for building a legacy of vital contributions to her adopted city, Toronto, to cities and places around the world, and to her profession as an Urban Planner. Her projects have been awarded numerous provincial, national, and international honours. She elevated the profession, enthusiastically mentoring many young planners, and playing a vital role as President of the Canadian Institute of Planners.
Andrea completed her undergraduate education at McGill University in Sociology, continuing on to the Master’s in Urban Planning. She arrived in Toronto in 1977 with her husband Peter, a residential architect.
Early in her career in Toronto, Andrea joined the City of North York, where she was involved in its first tentative steps towards transformation from a suburban city to an urbanized centre. In 1985 Andrea joined Joe Berridge and Frank Lewinberg in the planning and urban design consultancy now known as Urban Strategies, and became one of the firm’s earliest partners.
Andrea’s professional practice has largely focussed on the planning of new urban development, always deeply respecting the public interest balanced with the need for realistic implementation. Many of her Toronto development projects are now built and occupied. She was responsible for the intensification of the Sherway Gardens Shopping Centre in western Toronto, for the Bay-Dundas complex built behind City Hall, for the Cathedral Development in Markham and for many others. Her continuing work for the highly prominent Canada Life (later Great West Life) project at the corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue resulted in a fine city-building redevelopment, receiving the 1999 Ontario Professional Planners Institute Merit Award. She helped catalyze the new Southcore Financial centre, securing approvals for a new hotel and office building, also for Great West Life.
She was responsible for numerous growth and structure plans across Ontario. For the municipalities of Bowmanville, Brantford, Orangeville and Waterloo she created new Official Plans and Growth Management Strategies, involving extensive community and agency processes.
Andrea had a remarkable reputation outside Canada, if one motivated largely on her love of sunshine. Whenever a project appeared on the horizon that was in a sunny location, Andrea was first in line. Her first two major foreign assignments were the creation of an Environmental Management and Land-Use Plan for Barbados (the entire nation), and a new Downtown Plan for Charleston, SC. Both these plans have been implemented and received broad acclaim for their quality, professionalism and innovation; and of course, Andrea appreciated their sunny locales. The Barbados Plan received the 1999 American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award as well as the Canadian Institute of Planners International Grand Prize for Excellence. The Charleston Plan won an American Planning Association Outstanding Planning Project Award. After developing a taste for travel, Andrea went on to create a new vision and master plan for the Lower Don Valley in Sheffield, UK, a highly complex revitalization of a former heavy industrial area – though much less sunny. This project also won an Award of Excellence from the Canadian Institute of Planners.
Several of her projects are now recognized as among the best of Toronto. Alexandra Park, an aging TCHC social housing complex tucked in between Spadina and Bathurst, owes its master plan for complete renewal to Andrea’s special touch; redevelopment is now solidly under way. Sadly, she did not live to see its completion, nor that of another project close to her heart, the redevelopment of Casey House, a central Toronto AIDS hospice.
Andrea’s sunny disposition worked wonders. She had a special way with clients, particularly the buttoned-down leaders of major financial and insurance institutions; they found her smile and easy laugh, combined with clear and careful advice to be a happy and productive departure from their everyday working environment, and sought her out.
Andrea maintained a long standing relationship with her alma mater. Since 1999 she was a member of McGill’s Faculty Advisory Board for the faculty containing the university’s Planning School. She was long a mentor of students graduating from the school, always looking for room for the best of them at Urban Strategies.
Andrea enthusiastically contributed to her profession; she was designated a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners, reflecting her status as one of its most prominent planning practitioners in Ontario and Canada. She was part of the Central Board of Management of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute from 1990 – 1992 and a member of its Policy Development Committee from 2000 – 2004. She actively represented the planning profession at the Toronto Region Board of Trade and became Chair of its Planning Committee. She was a regular speaker on planning and related public issues in Toronto and across Canada.
Andrea capped her long career of service by becoming the President of the Canadian Institute of Planners, where she concluded her three-year term just as she was diagnosed with an illness that was to become terminal. This position took her across Canada and the world where she represented Canadian planners and planning with enthusiasm and panache.
Within Urban Strategies, Andrea became a vital mentor, the go-to person for many of the junior planners — especially young women — advising how best to function in what was until recently the very male environment of planning and development. Whatever they were facing, Andrea had been there before them, raising two wonderful children, Stephanie and Brian, while working from the beginning – all before the current 12 months of parental leave was mandated. She was assiduous in promoting professional development, always encouraging staff to greater aspiration, to play a role in professional and public life, and to undertake work at the highest standard.
To those of us who worked with her every day she was a loyal friend and confidante, ‘mother to the firm’ with a wonderful and distinctive laugh that we will never forget.
All the members of Urban Strategies join with the colleagues of our profession, and many related professionals, to honour the memory of Andrea Gabor and to extend our condolences to her family.
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For information on the Andrea Gabor Memorial Fund or to sign her online memorial book, please visit this link.